Storing (and Finding) Plastic Containers
Kitchen Organization 101
Does anyone have an answer as to how to efficiently store plastic containers? I have a whole cupboard full of Tupperware/Gladware sandwich and soup containers and it seems like it would be better for me to use my cupboard for something other than storing plastic dishes.
Two months ago, I too became overwhelmed with just too many containers! My solution was to simply eliminate all those I never used. Right now, my cupboard holds only those I use regularly. I presently only have about seven or eight containers of various shapes, and I might add that they all "nest" quite nicely, which cuts down on the space they use in the cupboard. Their lids stand upright on the same shelf in one of those rectangular plastic trays about 2" tall.
Marie in Pennsylvania
I have two milk crates in the lower portion of a very tall cupboard. One holds all the "bottoms" and the other holds all the lids. These are for the big containers.
Also, we pack daily lunches once a week, so we have lots of little containers as well. We purchased stacking plastic drawers that fit under our kitchen island. One drawer holds all the lunch containers for my husband, and the other holds my lunch containers and water bottles (for bicycling).
This tip won't get rid of all the containers, but it will help store them in a smaller space. First, take all the containers out and attach the corresponding lids. Then use a permanent marker to make matching letters on all tops and their containers. (Label A, B, C, etc.) All of the ones labeled "A" will be the same size. That means that when you later need a container, and pull out an appropriate size (say it is labeled "B"), you need only look for a lid labeled with "B." That makes it much easier and quicker to get what you need. You can "nest" the container to store, and just pull out a lid that has a corresponding letter to your container. No more trying them on to fit!
I store my most frequently used containers stacked one within the other. It's the lids that seem to cause me the most problem, always spilling over behind the containers. I solved this by cutting the tops off two empty, different-size cereal boxes. On the front of each box, I cut a shallow notch. I can now use each box for storing appropriate sized lids, and I always know where to look to find the right size to match the container I need.
Jyl B. Ontario, Canada
One solution to storing my many plastic containers was to use two large plastic storage drawers, which happen to fit inside my kitchen cabinets. One drawer is for tops and the other is for bottoms. The tops are placed on end, so they are easy to see, and the bottoms are stacked by graduation to maximize space. Since tops take up less space, some of my less used, odd shaped containers are in the "tops" drawer and some hold very tiny containers. I like to keep the tops separate because they always seemed to filter to the bottom, making it harder to find a match.
Previously, I used cardboard boxes or plastic bins placed on a lower cabinet shelf that worked just as well.
We reuse plastic Gatorade bottles because they're easy to clean, sturdy, and if they really get yucky, they can be thrown out. But, like the plastic storage containers, they take up a lot of space. What I've done is put them in heavy plastic handle bags and hang the bags from hooks in the ceiling of my utility room. (My utility room is in the house and relatively free of bugs, so this may not work for everyone.) Anyway, I have a broomstick with an inverted hook on the end so I can get down or put back up whichever bag I need and the plastics are not cluttering up the cabinets.
I put all my small plastic containers in a large decorative bowl on a semi-high shelf in my kitchen. It's easy to just grab the bowl and pick out the container and lid I want. and because the plastic containers are light, the bowl isn't heavy to take down and it looks nice.
I got a nice dresser at a garage sale for $10 that I use for storing items that are needed, but that take up room that could be used for better purposes. I use one drawer for all my owner's manuals, one drawer for spare parts or attachments and items I use rarely like my rolling pin, and the big drawer for my food storage items. It works well. I keep it in the back porch so its handy.
Realize that placing a boundary of space is good. Your kitchen helpers will know exactly where these containers should go, too.
Store each container, lidded, in the storage box. If there are too many containers, give some to the thrift shop.
If you only need large numbers of containers during canning/garden season, store some in a box in a less convenient place (basement, attic)
Many homes have a space between the ceiling and the top of the cupboards. If you do not use your plastic containers frequently, they can be stored there so they don't waste cupboard space but are still within arms reach.
I hung an inexpensive "camping" hammock from the ceiling and put all my plastic containers in it. It's easy to find pieces and they're all out of the cabinets!
I understand your trouble because I have the same one. Here are a few ideas.
Sort through the containers and take out the ones that don't match. The odd bowls can be used for pet dishes, plants holders, organizers, bath toys for the kids, etc. As for the odd lids, use them as coasters and paint pallets. Large or ice cream pail lids can be moved to the plate cupboard, as they make great plates for a sandwich.
If there are a few that you really don't need, make up casseroles, cookies or whatever and give the containers away as gifts. You don't need to wait until the holidays to do this. What about a graduation or wedding gift? Be creative.
The other thing I started doing was using more storage bags. They may not be the most frugal in dollars and cents, but when it comes to sanity in the kitchen, it makes sense for me. The bags take up less space and I purchase them in large quantities at a wholesale club. I wash them either with the dishes or in the washing machine (turned wrong side out) and hang them to dry. (Storing them in a tall, tube like container, which lost its lid). Reuse them until they are worn out.
It seems that we get a collection of yogurt and sour cream containers. If you know that you purchase those kinds of products, then get rid of the purchased containers and use the free ones of that size. You'll have a cheap and a steady supply. You can label and date them with a wet erase marker. It will wash off when you do the dishes. Stacking these can get out of hand as well. I pitch them if they are cracked or broken in any way. That makes the decision easier as to what to keep and what to pitch.
As for stacking, you should keep the large containers on the bottom and the smaller ones inside. A plastic basket works great for lids. Or match the lid with the bottom and stack them like blocks. When the space is filled, get rid of the rest. This method is a big help if the majority of the problem is mismatched stuff. If it doesn't have its partner, find another use for it or pitch it.
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